American college publications are less coupled with their audiences than what actual US newspapers are, David Bockino, of Elon University, writes. Bockino surveyed 231 US college newspaper advisers over how they perceived their protégés’ work.
Most notably, college newspapers have weaker “coupling” with their audiences and marketing teams than what is reported of the industry, the author found. This was connected to the papers’ financial bases: the less reliant the college paper is on advertising and subscriptions, the less interested it is in audience metrics or market research.
Interestingly, the student-reporters were seen to have more autonomy in papers that were more dependent on advertising revenue. Ad-dependent papers might need more flexibility in order to swiftly adapt to changing audience demands, Bockino suggests. Still, the advisers estimated these commercially aligned papers to have poorer performance than papers surviving on direct funding.
College newspapers can be viewed as training grounds for future journalists, and many would argue the papers’ practices should reflect those of the industry, the author writes. While ignoring the industry trends might be useful in driving home ideal practices and journalistic values, Bockino wonders if there is “value in preparing students for an environment that no longer exists”.
The article “Preparatory Journalism” was published by the Journalism & Mass Communication Educator. It is available online (abstract free).
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